Bill's Diary 1949 (Part 4)
First edition: 2014
Publisher: EB Society
Illustrator: not illustrated
Category: Bill's Diary 1949
Type: Continuation Books
Publisher: EB Society
Illustrator: not illustrated
Category: Bill's Diary 1949
Type: Continuation Books
On This Page...
Sept. 2nd – Friday (cont.)
What a feast for the voyagers – and there was even a plate of fruit for Kiki and the little monkey to share and they did, although Kiki had to crane her neck around Micky who was sitting so close he was almost astride the collection of berries and other delicacies. The voyage was discussed and I contributed although Allie, true to form, listened more politely than enthusiastically but that aspect was generally lost in the hubbub of voices that kept relating this fact and that fact throughout the meal. The treasure hunt could be talked about afterwards because I think one and all, we rather expected there to be a degree of admonishment. Allie was her usual charming self and she listened intently to each of the children giving their side of the trip. We at last left the table and feeling comfortably full and ready to relax for a while before bed, we settled down in the living room and no one wanted to run around as we were all feeling rather tired. There'd be plenty of time tomorrow for the kids to rediscover their haunts. Wasn't quite sure what was to come next so I fumbled around with my pipe and began lighting it up. Allie was sitting in her comfy chair sipping tea and listening to Lucy-Ann adding still more details to her recollections of the 'Lucky Star.'
She ended with. "Bill was marvellous and he looked after us just as if he'd been our father." She turned to the others and they all nodded vigorously.
"He always looks after us," said Dinah. "Remember when he rescued us in his plane?"
Once again they all nodded their heads and I realized they were doing their best to pull me out from underneath the monstrous sin I'd committed. Allie looked as if she just wanted to get it over with.
"Suppose we'd better fill you in Allie - the treasure and all that happened leading up to the discovery. Poor old Jack wasn't there," I said lightly.
"Kiki had flown off and I went back to look for her."
This was rather a cryptic comment, as Allie hadn't been filled in with all the details as yet of our journey underground - only my very brief mention of it - and it was a signal for the full account to burst forth. Constantly interrupting each other, the kids gave her a well-rounded version always putting me in a good light for which I was thankful. I added a few details here and there and as much as it sounded like a fairytale, we had something tangible to remind us all of our latest expedition – up on the mantelpiece was the beautiful carved ship that Philip had proudly placed there. Named after the Princess Andra, it was an artifact that could be worth a lot on the open market but I couldn't see Philip selling it. At least, not in the foreseeable future. The tale was finished and now Allie's eyes met mine.
"Bill you broke your word. You promised never to lead the children into another adventure, and I trusted you."
It was probably unnoticed by the children, but Allie's voice had the slightest tinge of a 'challenge' in it and I decided to take up the bait. She'd made her point for the kids' benefit and now it was up to me to worm my way out.
"You did promise, Bill."
"Allie, you know I'd do anything for the children and yourself and it happened to include a little catering to their wishes for what we all thought would be a harmless bit of treasure hunting. We were at a loose end when the Lucky Star broke down and I think that if anyone else had possession of a map such as we did, and was stranded right nearby with nothing to do, I'm sure the urge would be to follow it up. Don't you think so, Allie?"
I looked at her directly, searching her face for a response, and then surveyed the kids who were sitting in their seats dead silent. Kiki hopped about on Jack's shoulder but didn't say a word.
"Bill! You promised."
"No Allie, I didn't."
She looked at me with widened eyes and I felt like kissing her.
"Allie, I never promised anything."
Dinah suddenly went red and broke the silence that followed.
"Mum, I think we're to blame. I've just remembered you told us not to get into any scrapes when you left the Lucky Star and you said to tell Bill that if we get into any trouble you'll never forgive him."
"I don't remember telling him."
"I can't remember passing that on either," Jack said, looking at Philip.
"I didn't either."
"And neither did I," said Lucy-Ann in a small voice.
Allie was weighing things up. I like jousting with her and I think that in the circumstances I was able to regain ground because I'd never received any supposed message that Allie had asked them to pass on and no promises had been made. Of that I was sure.
"Allie, believe me," I said. "It really was meant to be an afternoon's exploring and we had no idea at all things would start happening just as soon as we got to the island."
Did I see an atom of relief appear on Allie's face? She knew I'd never intentionally lead the children into danger.
"I'm sorry, Bill. I'll have to believe you're right and that no promises were made ... and I know your intentions are always just."
Lucy-Ann came over and flung her arms around me, as is her wont.
"Aunt Allie, Bill's the most trustable and nicest person in the world."
Laughter greeted this and the atmosphere lightened rapidly.
'I don't know," Allie said. "Whenever you're alone with Bill, something terrible always seems to happen."
"Good things have happened too," Philip mused. "We've made a small family fortune and experienced things that very few other kids of our age have."
"Yes, and Aunt Polly was able to get out of their decrepit old place and now she and Uncle Joss have bought a miles better place." This from Dinah.
"And we found Bill," said Lucy-Ann.
Yes, they'd found me! Indeed they had, and now I was in love with their mother. I thought back to our conversation in Lisbon. I could see an opportunity raising its head.
Lucy-Ann settled it.
"Why can't you always be together," she asked while Allie happened to be looking steadily at me. "You could get married and then Bill would always be under your eye."
Allie and I burst out laughing.
Jack, Philip and Dinah sat there with their faces registering disbelief, horror, amazement, joy ... the whole gamut. How could Lucy-Ann say such a thing?
I knew. Lucy-Ann's level of innocence is still fairly high and she was just saying what she felt. I was grateful for the opening and then Philip suddenly followed through.
"A wizard idea! Fancy us having Bill for a father!"
What a moment! The laughter had eased any tension but now it was time for me to follow through. I looked at the four children one by one and saw happiness on each face ... happiness tempered with hope. 'Would Bill suggest something?' That was the question.
It was no question to me – I'd known for ages what the answer would be. Turning to face Allie who was eyeing me rather apprehensively, I asked her if she though their proposal was a good one.
It was now her turn for the surprised expression. She saw the children all leaning forward and all she could do was to give them a big smile and tell a fib."
"Bill," she said very tenderly. "I think it's a wonderful suggestion, and I'm surprised we never thought of it before!"
We didn't kiss or anything, there was time for that later on. We just looked around at the children who had jumped out of their chairs in delight, and there was Lucy-Ann with stars in her eyes telling us what we already knew –
"What a wonderful end to an adventure!"
It's 23:17 and I've spent over an hour writing the log. Been put up in the guest room and couldn't feel happier. Tomorrow I'll get back to London and see the boys ... spread the news as it were, and then plans have to be made, a date to be set. There's a lot to be done and it's all because: Heaven has Fallen and Dropped an Angel into my Arms. (22:28)
Most of the buildings on Thamis after becoming even more dilapidated and uninhabitable, have now been cleared away by arrangement with the appropriate government department based in Athens. Although former inhabitants refer to the Island in the Sporades group as Thamis, it is not officially named despite recently acquiring a 'working title,' for mapping purposes.
Mr. C. Eppy and several of his employees were duly charged in the Court of Athens and convicted of theft, attempted pillage, and conspiracy. There were a number of other indictments, including one that dealt with guardianship responsibilities that have been answered to in another court session during November of 1949. Mr. Eppy drew a seven-year term and his associates who pled guilty to several charges have also been jailed.
Due to previous references in Det. Cunningham's diary pages, it was considered appropriate to print an excerpt from the April 14th entry on his return from a service at Tower Hamlets:
Here Charlie rests
Now still. Now cold.
A bad 'un but -
With a heart of gold.
Mr. Alexander Broughton who has since retired from the Examining Committee has, on more than one occasion, voiced his opinion that references with either a direct bearing on the released Diary papers or those with a perceived Public Interest should be released.
It is considered that the October 8th, 1949 entry is worthy of inclusion and it is therefore set out below as recorded
Oct. 8th – Sat
The alarm went off at 05:00 and I was dressed and breakfasted in forty minutes. Not all that hungry so it was just a slice of toast and some coffee. Charles rang to finalize a few items and ninety minutes later the flat had been cleaned up and security checked. Time to review some of the notes received from the Hall – Oct. 4th taken care of, 8th, 20th, and Allie has Okayed Thursdays letter. Beatrice's handwriting is always hard to read but I'd already translated the gist and written it down in the Log. Wonder if the kids sent any 'Requests' – orders are that no one lets on about them and I think the idea is to lend a little 'mystery' to the proceedings. Everything else is pretty straightforward but will the children accept the dress rule? Beatrice's love for the romantic ages is well known and the theme would suit the venue by all means but I can't imagine what the boys' will think. The girls will probably lap it up though, and looking at the sample photographs, I think they'd look quite dandy. Allie has agreed to it. Nothing much to take – just a few personal items which have been stowed away in the boot together with a bag containing soft drinks just in case the kids need them. Took the suit out and inspected it. Charles was spot on with his advice – the Saville Row boys have done themselves proud with the very latest fashion - measured and cut in one day, delivered the following.
Heard a car outside and opened the door as the kids arrived almost dead on the 08:00 mark. Yells and screams ...
"Bill. Hi Bill, how have you been?"
"Bill! Let me give you a hug." Lucy Ann of course.
"Hi Bill, Hi Bill, Hi Bill. Oh, I say, Bill." That was Kiki of course and I think she got the end part from their friend Lucian. I admired the girls' hair, which looked as if an expert hairdresser had been up late into the night.
"Mum fixed us up," said Dinah turning so that I could admire the back as well.
"It's only temporary though," said Lucy-Ann, " ... just to get the waves right."
"We'll have a professional hairdresser to make us la-de-da, won't we?" Dinah added.
It was interesting to note that Philip didn't make any remarks. A year or two ago, he would have said something cutting to his sister so it looks as if the growing-up process is definitely taking over. Lucy-Ann turned as well and I could see that Allie had used her creativity to good effect - talented woman that she is.
They all rushed inside carrying their haversacks, and I followed them. Didn't need to pay the chauffer seeing it's on Beatrice. They'd caught the train to the station and had been collected by a hire firm. I confronted the kids who were peering at the new additions to my aquarium, with Jack trying to determine their generic name.
"Has your mother told you anything?"
"They turned and Dinah answered,
"Only that it's themed!"
"Any descriptions ... explanations?"
There was a chorus of 'Noes.'
"We haven't brought any other clothes," said Jack. "Is that something to do with it?"
"You know nothing?"
The children looked at one another, and then shook their heads.
Dam it. Looks like our first 'fight' is 'in waiting.'
'No," said Philip helping himself to a walnut from the bowl and looking round for something to crack it. Kiki flew down but her beak wasn't strong enough to be of any use.
"OK. Let's go," I said, and after the flat had been checked over again, we all went down to the garage and got into the car.
"Where are we going, Bill?" asked four curious voices.
"To be dressed for the occasion." I said getting in and starting up before backing out into the street. Jack jumped out to pull down the door.
"Aren't our Sunday clothes good enough?" Dinah asked. "Are we having new ones bought for us?"
"Who's paying for them," asked Jack.
"Pay the Bill, Pay the Bill," squawked Kiki.
"Mum said our clothes are being supplied," Philip said.
So, Allie had at least mentioned that side of it.
"You're going to be measured," I announced and there was a stunned silence. I thought it best to let George tell them the rest because the children were hardly likely to berate a stranger for what was to follow. I pressed the pedal down and soon we had passed Hyde Park and driven through Kensington and White City at a fair speed seeing it was still quite early. On to on the main thoroughfare we went heading west for a twenty-minute stretch, stopping briefly to buy sweets that had to be dispensed carefully - the kids can't get enough of them ever since rationing ended. Entered Denham and cruised along Moorhall Road to the studios. The commissioner had been briefed and passing through a gate at the rear, we came to a stop outside a nondescript door. Poor Lucy-Ann, she couldn't figure out what on earth was happening although the others seemed to be taking things in their stride. We entered and walked down a passageway with faded movie posters decorating the walls, and then up a few stairs to a suite of rooms I've visited just once before.
George's workplace had the usual clutter spread round with dummy heads everywhere, some costumes, easels, paints, and other stuff. Old invitations to past studio functions added character and if I'd had the time they would have made interesting reading if only for the famous names they might contain. The kids were entranced with the surroundings, as kids always are when they find themselves in a film studio. George appeared out of the side room where his office was located and I introduced the kids. Still with his Allan Jones haircut, he was dressed in tweed, and wearing a jumper with patchwork designs. The ever-present pipe was in his hand but it was empty, and as he surveyed the children I gathered he was weighing them up in relation to the costumes being chosen. Taking centre stage he motioned them to chairs while I leaned on a trestle table and felt thankful I'd decided to let him say it all. Moving his hands about in all directions he gave us a thorough explanation of exactly what Georgian theming meant – they would all be in period costume.
"Bill too?" asked Lucy-Ann looking askance.
"No!" said George. "Just the youngsters and the house staff."
I added. "A little bit of elegance to match the surroundings."
George pulled some photographs out of a large envelope and handed them around.
Just as I had thought. Philip and Jack looked so horrified I almost laughed out loud.
"What about the others of our age – will they be dressed like that as well?"
George looked over at me and I nodded.
"Orders from 'Up Top.' All younger guests. The theme had been chosen more with those in mind but as George said, the staff would also be dressed up.
"You'll love it!" he said waving with enthusiasm. "The clothes will feel strange at first but once you've worn them for a short time, and with all the others dressed the same way, you won't mind a bit."
"That a fact, George?"
"It is Bill. I've dressed piles of youngsters for celebrations and the reaction is always positive."
"I think I'm going to like it," said Lucy-Ann.
Dinah nodded. She's getting quite fussy about her appearance these days and the thought of being outfitted in the costume of an 18th Century Lady of Noble Heritage was making her feel quite enthusiastic.
George went on. "We've been sent your measurements so nip down that passage and you'll find two rooms – boys one, girls the other. Maisie will be on hand to assist."
Maisie! I had met George's assistant when Pete and I visited once and her presence was a surprise. Money had obviously changed hands because bringing an expert like her in on a Saturday morning must have been difficult. The children left, still looking curiously around them as they made their way along the hallway.
"I owe you at least a couple of favours," I told George but he laughed and said it was nothing. He owed Pete one or two so he was in payback mode he told me. I offered him a cigarette and after lighting up, we exchanged news. He told me that Rank looks ready to sack over a hundred staff soon – there are problems in the industry it seems. Petrol's up tuppence so he's been doubling up with staff and saving a pile; he and Maisie take turns because she doesn't live all that far from him. George is always interested in any activity taking place at Bow Street so I gave him the lowdown on a few lesser known aspects of the Haigh murders and had his devoted attention until the sound of pattering feet were heard. The door burst open and in came his assistant followed by the children, each carrying a parcel. Maisie, with her sharp, intelligent features looked my way and waved to me.
"How's it going, Bill?"
Told her I was fine and thanked her for coming in.
Lucy-Ann looked pleased as punch. "I've got a fabulous costume and so's Dinah ... "
"So's Dinah, So's Dinah, So's Dinah ... "
"Shut up Kiki!"
Lucy-Ann has always liked dressing up.
"We've even got hairpieces and wigs - the whole works, and Maisie showed us exactly how to arrange them. We haven't seen the boys' costumes yet."
I looked at Jack and Philip, with raised eyebrows.
"No choice!" said Jack. "But Maisie told us we'll think nothing of it once we're all togged up, especially with the other kids all looking the same."
"Exactly," Maisie agreed, nodding approvingly.
"They're all yours, Bill."
George got up and took a printed form from his desk.
"Take this." He handed it to Dinah and told her it was for their hairdresser or costumier to consult if there were any problems. "A few hints about the tucks and bobs, and some make-up advice."
"Of course," said Maisie. "We haven't plundered the wardrobe department for nothing. One has to look the part from top to toe."
I turned to the boys again and they adopted their resigned expressions.
"If the others ... "
Lucy-Ann broke in. "Maisie says if there are any prizes for 'Best Costume' we'll take it because the other kids probably won't have the movie-star make-up like we've got."
Dinah looked worried. "If we can remember how to put the costumes on – they're awfully finicky."
"It's all in hand," I assured her. "There'll be seamstresses and someone to check your hair so you've no worries."
"How do you know?"
How did I know? The directions received contained the hallmark – 'Organization.'
"It's all in the instructions."
"Right," said George coming over from his desk where he'd been writing something. "You're all set to go, and Bill I wish you the best. I'll hear from Pete no doubt how it all went and right now I'm off for a spot of fishing in Norfolk seeing I've been hard at it for six days straight."
Good for him.
"We'd better get away" I said and after shaking hands and thanking George and his assistant for their help, we were seen off at the outside door."
With the kids waving furiously and Kiki cracking her beak to get a little attention, we set off back down the drive with its cultivated gardens and tall trees and bushes.
"I'll bet no one else will look as good as ," I said still trying to bolster up the boys' confidence.
"The others will be dressed up won't they?" Philip asked once again.
"Don't you worry," I told him. "Orders were explicit, so you won't feel out of place at all."
"Bit like attending a fancy dress party I suppose," said Jack putting it in a nutshell and a glance in the rear mirror showed Philip looked a little happier.
"Good point, Jack" I said reassuringly.
"Will there be dancing, Bill?" Lucy-Ann asked.
"There'll be musicians," I said, "So there's sure to be."
"And you're the Star," she said leaning over to give me a hug.
"Watch it, or we'll all crash!"
We left the outskirts of Denham at 11:50 and raced along lush countryside past towns and villages with the girls going on and on about a man they'd seen walking away from the studios as we left. They both swore it was John Mills and the boys, who'd been discussing cricket results, pooh-poohed the idea.
"It was, Dinah insisted, backed up valiantly by Lucy-Ann who even described what the actor was wearing.
"Bill, did you see him?"
I hadn't, so I could only offer them help to the extent that Mills had been acting in a film there recently. Said I'd ask George when I catch up with him again, but they'd have to remind me.
"Mr. Polly or something," said Lucy-Ann. "I saw it in the Sketch."
"I think you mean The History of Mr. Polly," I told her. "Wouldn't be surprised because it's a popular novel."
"That's it," Dinah exclaimed. "A film is being made of the book."
"Well, there you are," I said, my thoughts drifting back to the day's arrangements. Everything seemed to have been covered, so I thought of Allie and wondered what she was doing right at this moment. Probably being fitted out and made up to look gorgeous. Far cry from where we were right then, and I spent a few pleasant minutes imagining I was with her.
Drove nor-east along the highways and byways and at about 12:50 we passed through Epping Forest and continued on at a good speed. Stopped only once when we pulled over to a verge in the Bishop's Stortford vicinity near a couple of small ponds on the corner of Green Street and Canfield Road. We all got out and sat on a blanket placed on the grass by our female passengers (Kiki excluded), and guzzled ginger beer with a pleasant view of meadows and trees and an old farmhouse over the road. I took the opportunity to bring the log up to date. Been doing that whenever I get a few minutes to myself because there'll be little chance later on. (13:30)
The kids started daring each other to do all kinds of things and I kidded Lucy-Ann that I was going to pick her up and dangle her feet in one of the ponds. She gave a shriek and climbed back into the car and when I poked my head in to offer her a sweet from the packet being handing around, she took one and said –
A pang went through my heart when I heard those words. I looked at her and recalled that she and Jack had been orphans from when they were so young, and for a long time they'd had no one they could call 'Dad' or 'Mum.' Allie was about the nearest substitute. I saw her green eyes looking up at me and I realized that right now she was about as happy as she could be in her world. I leaned forward and kissed her cheek whilst floundering for the right thing to say.
"Not quite yet," I reminded her, " ... but I love you just as much now as I will when I'm ... your Dad!"
She said, rather shyly, "I was just practicing. Hope you don't mind."
Did I mind?
"I don't mind one little bit, Lucy-Ann ... and you know I don't."
She settled back and gave a sigh of contentment as I yelled out to the others. They came a-running and I let Jack sit in front because he'd "had enough" of being at the back with two girls. Philip complained but piped down when I said he could sit in the boot if he liked, and then we were off once again with everyone in high spirits as we travelled on past Great Saling to avoid Braintree, and in half an hour's time we entered the environs of Gosfield. Located Parkhall Road and drove past the preparatory school; then at 13:40 or thereabouts we arrived at the venue entrance where we spied three men standing by the gates. One of them put up his hand to wave us down so I stopped and leaned out the window to hear him announce that he was a detective and a card was flashed for me to read the words – Det. Laurence Frost. He looked at the number plate and asked my business in the vicinity. He was young and had obviously got something wrong because when I told him we were attending a wedding he looked at a list and said the place was restricted and only approved vehicles could enter. He ran his eyes over the children and didn't seem sure what to do next. I was enjoying it. He asked if we had any presents that would verify our good motives and I said we had none at all, so he pulled his head out and looked uncertainly over at his two colleagues who were approaching the car. I got out.
There he was – ex Superintendent Hugh Blackwell of Knightsbridge. I got out and we shook hands then he introduced me to his off-siders, at the same time snatching the clipboard from Frost's hands and examining it.
"Shocking mistake," he exclaimed. One of the digits of your plate has been left out."
Frost apologized and I said there was no need to at all – it wasn't his fault. He and the other detective (Rob Gallagher) were locals and couldn't be expected to know my car or me. Hugh had come out of retirement for the day to back up the police's share of security. I was sure of one thing and just as I thought, the list of numbers and additional information they were referring to on the clipboard had come directly from Police HQ.
Hugh read my thoughts. "No, it would never have originated from the Hall. They don't make mistakes."
"We can't be sure of that, can we," I said airily but I knew he was right. He told me they were responsible for only the front entrance because the inner security was privately covered. After the three lawmen had been introduced to the children and had congratulated me and wished us all a pleasant afternoon I got back in the car and ordered them to come for a drink in the evening when their replacements arrive. Entered the grounds and drove slowly along the drive to park on a patch of green sward just down from the front entrance where a cluster of other cars were stationed. It was the first time I'd been here and the size of the place after comparing it to the photographs that were sent down was quite a surprise until I remembered Beatrice's extravagant needs when it came to entertaining. She pursues it as a vocation. The kids had been rather quiet as they took in the surroundings and were, no doubt, imagining themselves dressed up in the costumes we'd brought with us.
An orchestra was playing somewhere and the melody floating around us conjured up pictures of elegant ladies and escorts bowing to each other in an ancient ballroom. We grabbed bags and stuff from the boot and our first glimpse of the theme was a figure tripping down the main steps ... and what a sight. He looked like a footman one would find at the palace, but from a long time ago. He wore a red frock coat covered with gold decorations, a waistcoat, knickerbockers, boots, gloves and even one of those white ruffle things that go round the neck. Looking in his fifties, he had a humorous expression on his chubby face that peeked out from a white crimped and pigtailed wig. Actually, considering the surroundings and the lilting strains of medieval music, it seemed quite appropriate that a person so dressed would greet us. Kiki flew off Jack's shoulder and circled what was to her a very strange apparition and after assuring herself it was human like her master, she flew to Philip's shoulder and then up to a tree to peck at something that was jutting out from the trunk.
Our welcome couldn't have been warmer as the servant or 'courtier' shook hands with all of us, introduced himself as Arthur, and then led us up the steps and through a great doorway into the Hall. Broad wooden beams, gold-framed pictures on the walls, latticed windows with comfortable looking sills and paneling greeted us before we were ushered up a wide balustraded staircase and into a long passage with rooms leading off. Sounds of chatter and laughter came from down below somewhere and music continued to permeate the air. The kids were looking all round with interest and Kiki amused us when she flew above Arthur's head telling him to wipe his feet. He was immensely surprised because he hadn't been told the bird could speak but he answered her with spirit.
"I've already wiped my feet Mr. Parrot."
"Miss," said Jack.
"She's a Miss."
"Sorry young Sir. Miss!"
A couple of elegant ladies in crinolines came out of a room and greeted us. Arthur introduced them and said they'd take the children away to be garbed in the nursery wing so off they traipsed down the corridor leading to the right while I followed the jolly footman along another passage and was directed into a bedchamber with adjoining washroom.
"Leave you to it," said Arthur with a big grin. "Hand-basin over there, bathroom through that door, and bell-push right here if you need any help, sir," he said pointing to a gold circle under the light switch.
Felt like tipping him but didn't think it would be the right thing to do in the circumstances so I thanked him and he left the room. Spent about half an hour washing and togging up and felt extremely satisfied when I looked at myself in the full-length mirror. The suit fitted like a glove and it made me look pretty good - and I had to look pretty good.
This was a special day.
Packed my other clothes into the bag, left my belongings on the bed, and made my way down to the main corridor just as the kids appeared. We appraised each other and what a sight - two Princes and two Princesses was about the best way to describe them. The girls wore full dresses from another age that made them look as if they'd just stepped out from one of the pictures that lined the wall of the staircase. With makeup expertly applied and added bits to her hair, Dinah looked like a miniature Queen with Allie's features while Lucy-Ann resembled a young and very petite Scarlett O'Hara but with more history. She was dressed in a purple & red high-necked bodice that had gold designs decorating the front and, like Dinah, a ballroom type gown with ruffles and bows. A bouffant hairstyle with pigtails and ribbons set off her petite tanned face making her look even prettier than ever as she danced around. The wardrobe room at Denham Studios had obviously been systematically plundered and Maisie had come up trumps
The boys went red when I looked at them, no doubt wondering if I was going to break out laughing but I didn't feel like it at all. In another setting I might have, but here they looked authentic. Like the girls they reflected the image of children from a period picture or movie. They were done up in much the same way as our guide - linen shirt, cravat and short waistcoat with fabric-covered buttons. Jack was in blue and Philip in green. They wore velvet jackets and beige breeches with designs that lent elegance. Long socks and shiny shoes with buckles completed the ensemble and their hair had been added to with wigs tied at the back. All in all, here were two very handsome young gentlemen - and as for the girls, there were no untoward comments whatsoever. Lucy-Ann thought they looked "Gorgeous." I told the woman who was with them that she had done an excellent job and relief showed in the boys' faces
"It's only fair that you lot had to doll yourselves up seeing we had to," I told them when I saw the girls admiring my own get-up.
That seemed the right thing to say and now that there was acceptance all around, the make-up artists or seamstresses or whatever they were, led us back down the stairs to the foyer where Arthur was standing very patiently. We were handed over to him and our escorts all smiles, disappeared through a door. It seemed a bit like an orientation session at varsity and we waited to see what was next on the menu. Arthur gave his broad smile and told us all to relax.
"Two essential things and then you're free to run around," he said to the kids in his cockney voice, and winking at me.
He was enjoying himself but then, I had a feeling everyone was going to enjoy themselves on this beautiful day. Some rain had been forecast but I think it was destined more for the West Country so we had to hope it missed us.
He ran his eyes over the Famous Four and nodding his approval said -
"Excepting for anything official, today's keynote is 'Casual.' Any staid parts of this great occasion are reflected in the attire – formal for the men and for the women while staff and children are dressed to reflect the theme, which is of course, Georgian. The Higher-Ups can't tell adult visitors what to wear but, by hokey, they can tell the children and the servants how to dress. That right?"
The children nodded in agreement and sympathized with Arthur in mock fashion but secretly, I don't think they minded one iota.
"Remember, help yourself to anything. There are loaded tables outside, a fountain to swim in - if you dare, and according to my lists you have friends here so make your way out that door and go to it."
The kids looked at me and I nodded.
"The Langs and Johns's are here and others you know, so go out and have the time of your lives."
They looked pretty excited.
"Bill, you come with us," Lucy-Ann said.
Arthur spoke. "No! Mr. Cunningham has appointments ... remember who he is."
"Personality of the day," Jack said, smiling. "Let's go out and find Louisa."
They'd met the Lang family once when they were in London and had made quite an impression on them.
" ... and Jeremy," said Dinah.
Arthur waved them to the exit and off they went, looking back at me with big grins on their faces. George may have been 100% right - perhaps we would have a problem getting them out of their costumes. The big door opened and I got another brief glimpse of the activity outside before it was pulled shut by another of the staff who had appeared as if by magic.
Arthur motioned to me. "Afraid I have to audaciously request that you accompany me again, Mr. Cunningham, sir."
I smiled at him. "Couldn't care less... and I'm Bill."